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Report: North Korea invites US for nuclear talks

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A daily summary of global reports on security issues.

North Korea has invited a United States special envoy to Pyongyang for talks on its nuclear program, according to South Korean media reports.

If true, it could be another signal that North Korea may be softening its line after months of belligerent saber-rattling.

The reported invitation comes after Pyongyang was said to have proposed a summit with South Korea over the weekend, though Seoul denied the report. The US and South Korean governments reiterated their insistence Monday that the isolated North – often called the "hermit kingdom" – must give up nuclear weapons.

The JoongAng Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper, reported Tuesday that US special envoy to North Korea Stephen Bosworth had accepted the invitation from Pyongyang and would travel to North Korea next month for talks. The report cited a "senior diplomatic source in Washington."

 
The U.S. delegation will likely visit South Korea, China and Japan in early September and then head to the North, according to the source.
 
The trip was to be announced officially in early September, immediately before their departure to Pyongyang, the diplomat added....
 
According to the source, Washington has decided to send Bosworth to Pyongyang as key obstacles in U.S.-North relations have been removed. Two jailed American reporters were released earlier this month and former U.S. President Bill Clinton confirmed the stability of the Kim Jong-il regime, the source said.

The news was also reported by South Korea's Yonhap News Agency. The Associated Press, following up on those reports, could not confirm the information with US officials.

The AP noted, "Such a trip would mark the first nuclear negotiations between the US and North Korea under the Obama administration."

 
Pyongyang has long sought [direct] negotiations with Washington about its nuclear program and other issues, hoping to boost its international profile. The U.S. has said it is willing to talk bilaterally to Pyongyang, but only within the framework of six-party talks involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.

Separately, North Korea and South Korea also agreed Tuesday to hold talks about arranging reunions between families separated by the long-running conflict on the Korean peninsula.

Red Cross officials from both sides will meet for three days beginning Wednesday at a resort in the North, according to the Korea Times.

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The Times said the talks – the first such negotiations in nearly two years – will aim to arrange reunions for families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War "around Chuseong, the Korean version of Thanksgiving, which falls on Oct. 3."

In an analysis last Saturday, Reuters writer Jon Herskovitz argued that the main reason for the North's new conciliatory tone was a need for money.

 
Impoverished North Korea's economy, already broken by years of mismanagement and global sanctions, has taken further hits this year from heavy rains that hurt its crucial farm sector, a loss of aid from the South -- roughly equal to about 5 percent of its estimated $17 billion a year GDP -- caused by political wrangling and new U.N. sanctions for the nuclear test aimed at cutting off its arms trade that is a key source of hard currency.

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